We all share a desire to stay warm and comfortable in the winter without spending a fortune on heat. Following are a few ways you can achieve a more comfortable indoor environment while reducing energy costs:

An electronic thermostat offers energy-efficient control.

1) Check your thermostat

Never set your thermostat higher than it needs to be for comfort. Over a 24-hour period, you can save about 3% of your energy costs for every degree you lower the thermostat’s set temperature in the winter. If it isn’t a programmable electronic thermostat, replace it with one that is. A programmable thermostat can save you money by eliminating wasteful energy usage, automatically turning down room temperatures when you’re sleeping or away from the house.

(For more information, see Programmable Electronic Thermostats.)

2) Seal up your house

If you haven’t already done so, install weatherstripping around windows and doors. (For more information, see our report on weatherstripping.) Caulk any cracks or openings in siding. And install or repair storm windows and storm doors. The idea is to prevent your home’s expensively heated air from escaping.


3) Take advantage of the sun’s warmth

Allow radiant energy from sunlight to augment your home’s heating system simply by opening drapes and blinds on sunny days. Conversely, close curtains after sundown or on cloudy days to retain heat. In fact, consider installing curtains that provide a thermal barrier. If you are building or renovating your house, discuss passive solar heating options with your builder—you could significantly reduce heating costs as a result of such smart design.


A ceiling fan can gently move warm air back down to the room.
A ceiling fan can gently move warm air back down to the room. Westinghouse

4) Consider installing ceiling fans

Ceiling fans can be very helpful, particularly in rooms with high ceilings. Because warm air rises and can be trapped at the ceiling, a ceiling fan, when run in reverse direction during the winter, will circulate warm air back down to living areas. (For more information, see the Ceiling Fan Buying Guide.)


5) Be sure your home is adequately insulated

If it isn’t, increase or replace the insulation, particularly in the attic. Not only is the attic usually the easiest place in the house to add insulation, but it’s also where you will realize the greatest energy savings. (For more information, see the House Insulation Buying Guide.)


Is it time for a new furnace that heats more efficiently?
Is it time for a new furnace that heats more efficiently? © Carolina K. Smith M.d. | Dreamstime.com

6) Consider replacing your furnace

Forced-air heating systems are by far the most popular type of central heating, but most forced-air systems are sadly out of date. Some utilize only 50% of the fuel they burn. Newer models take advantage of up to 90% of their fuel. (For more information, see High-Efficiency Furnaces: A Buying & Care Guide.)


7) Control the humidity levels

For comfort in winter, your home’s relative humidity levels should range from 30% to 60%. If they drop below this, the air becomes very dry and higher temperatures are required to feel warm. To boost the humidity, you can buy a humidifier, which puts water vapor back into the air. Room or console humidifiers will handle individual rooms and small areas, but for the entire house you’ll need a whole-house system that is installed as part of the heating system. (For more information, see the Humidifiers Buying Guide.)


8) Keep your radiators or convectors in tiptop shape

Knocking sounds in steam and hot-water heating systems mean that air is trapped in components. Be sure to release air from the system when you hear such sounds, and, to prevent this from happening, before the cooling season begins. You can also reflect heat back into a room—and, hence, increase the efficiency of your system—by placing radiator reflectors or aluminum foil on the wall behind your radiator or convector.


9) Install a radiant-heat flooring system

Radiant floor heating offers comfortable heat in a single room such as the bathroom.
Radiant floor heating offers comfortable heat in a single room such as the bathroom. © Ron Chapple | Dreamstime.com

As an alternative to conventional forced-air heat, consider installing a hydronic or electric radiant-heat flooring system. These circulate heat throughout the floor and can be much more efficient than forced-air systems. (For more information, see Radiant In-Floor Heating Systems.)

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort